When the Miami Marlins selected Braxton Garrett, a then-18-year-old out of Florence High School (Florence, AL), 7th overall in the 2016 first-year player draft, the pick appeared a safe one amid a class riddled with uncertainty.
The finesse-throwing left-handed pitcher had a 0.56 ERA over 65 1⁄3 innings during his senior season, striking out 131 against just 13 walks en route to collecting Alabama’s Gatorade Player of the Year honors. He received a perfect 10 prospect score from Perfect Game.
Here’s more on Garrett the draft prospect from Baseball America:
Garrett has the stuff to match his results. His curveball is his best pitch, earning easy plus grades for its tight spin and late 11-to-5 break. He is able to command his breaking ball, allowing him to throw it for strikes or make it a chase pitch to both righthanders and lefthanders. Garrett’s fastball sits in the low 90s and his changeup shows excellent promise, giving him the potential for three above-average or better offerings. He has a balanced, easy delivery that he repeats extremely well, allowing him to fill the zone with quality strikes.
Braxton Garrett is a player to watch in the third set of #NHSI matchups announced Wednesday https://t.co/BL2IiqTuZQ pic.twitter.com/DiIDqqU9VO— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 2, 2016
Upon forgoing his commitment to Vanderbilt and signing with Miami for a $4,069,200 bonus, Garrett would debut in 2017 for High-A Greensboro, pitching to a 2.93 ERA over 4 starts before his season was cut short in June following Tommy John surgery. After returning and pitching well in 21 starts between Advanced-A Jupiter and AA Jacksonville (3.54 ERA), it appeared Garrett had reaffirmed his prospect status, one that would soon so him graduate to the Majors.
Garrett’s early big league excursions were anything but encouraging. Among the 482 pitchers to throw at least 40 innings between 2020 and 2021, only Brandon Workman’s 2.12 WHIP was higher than Garrett’s 1.80.
Though there were glimmers of light that peered through, including a 7-inning, 10-strikeout performance against the San Diego Padres on July 24, 2021.
Braxton Garrett was outstanding tonight against one of the very best lineups in baseball.— jeremy taché (@jeremytache) July 25, 2021
He’s another one of those young arms here in Miami at only 23 years old. Another former 1st round pick. pic.twitter.com/9L6QMU3lKC
Come 2022, Garrett got his first extended chance to start at the MLB level. With a new slider emerging as his preeminent breaking ball, he impressed to the tune of a 3.58 ERA (113 ERA+) over 88 innings. He halved his walk rate while allowing just 9 home runs (0.9 HR/9) over his 17 starts, a combination of command and long ball prevention that’s relatively rare.
After missing out on the 2023 Opening Day rotation, Garrett quickly got the call to replace the injured Johnny Cueto. Through 3 appearances, he has posted a 3.38 ERA over 13 1⁄3 innings, leading some to believe that 2022 wasn’t a mere aberration.
The genesis of this thought excursion comes from a perusing of Garrett’s aforementioned 2016 draft class. Now that he and his first-round contemporaries have had ample time to develop as professionals, we begin to see that the Marlins actually made out better than most.
Some more Braxton Garrett love today.— Louis Addeo-Weiss (@addeo_louis00) April 16, 2023
Among the first 10 players selected in the 2016 draft class, only Ian Anderson (3rd, 3.6) and Cal Quantrill (8th, 6.8) have accrued more WAR than Garrett's (7th) 1.6.
1. Moniak -1.3
2. Senzel -1.9
4. Pint - DNR
5. Ray - 0.0
7. Manning - 0.6
In an anti-Drake fashion, we’ll commence from the top of the draft board with the number 1 pick in 2016, Mickey Moniak. An outfielder out of La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California, Moniak parlayed a terrific senior season—he hit .476 with a .961 slugging percentage in 29 games, en route to earning Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year honors—into being the 1-1 selection by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Moniak never OPS’d above .749 in parts of four minor league seasons before Philadelphia looked to see what their pick had at the next level. Debuting during the COVID-shortened 2020, he hit .214 over 18 plate appearances.
Moniak then went to the Angels in a trade that included Noah Syndergaard and has produced to the tune of a .157/.218/.268 slash line, accruing -1.3 rWAR in the process. Though still not yet 25 years old, he looks far more like a AAAA player than someone whom Philadelphia once thought to be the foundation for their next winning core.
Lance McCullers Jr gets Mickey Moniak on 4 straight curveballs! ❄️pic.twitter.com/hzoYlCpD6e— APOLLO MEDIA (@ApolloHOU) September 10, 2022
Our number 2 pick and topic of conversation, Nick Senzel, does lay claim to playing the third most games (279) of the bunch, but beyond that, what he’s shown isn’t exactly worth celebrating. In those 279 games over parts of 5 seasons that have seen him go from a fringy second/third baseman to a well-below-average center fielder, Senzel has been worth -1.7 wins, hitting a mere .239/.303/.357. Injuries have no doubt contributed to Senzel’s struggles—he has been slowed by right finger, left knee, and labrum issues. It’s safe to say that the Reds haven’t made out well with their second pick.
Nick Senzel’s voice went up at least two octaves. pic.twitter.com/bMwCN5NK5e— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 1, 2020
Much time won’t be spent on the third pick from the 2016 class, Atlanta’s Ian Anderson, as he’s put together a respectable 3.6 WAR highlighted by a 3.25 ERA (136 ERA+) over 160 2⁄3 innings between 2020-2021. He had the unusual distinction of receiving down-ballot NL Rookie of the Year votes in both of those seasons. Anderson also penned 35 2⁄3 innings of a 1.26 playoff ERA on the Braves quest to their first championship since 1995.
Just give Ian Anderson the damn Rookie of the Year already. pic.twitter.com/ox3b7WN1jE— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) April 28, 2021
However, following a rough 2022 and 2023 spring training that saw Anderson optioned to AAA, news of his undergoing Tommy John surgery last week put his status as a viable contributor on hold for now.
Now, the number 4 pick, Riley Pint, comes with the caveat of being selected by the Colorado Rockies, a team notoriously inept at developing pitching. To quote Australian psych-rockers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, we could defer to merely blame it on the weather, but Pint would at least have had even to have cracked the big leagues for that to carry more weight.
A hard-throwing right-hander whose fastball at times touched triple digits, Pint’s minor league career went about as well as one would expect a pitcher drafted by Colorado to go. In 219 1⁄3 innings, Pint posted a disastrous 1.72 WHIP, 5.38 ERA, and (for entertainment purposes only) a win-loss record of just 6-23. He’s still kicking around at AAA Albuquerque as a reliever.
The Milwaukee Brewers got a measly 3 MLB plate appearances from outfielder Corey Ray, drafted in the 5th spot. Ray has begun the next phase of his baseball career as the bench coach for the Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Before he was Braxton Garrett’s teammate, A.J. Puk was a major question mark in the Oakland Athletics organization. He struck out 184 hitters over 125 innings between Advanced-A and AA in 2017, but then missed all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Puk pitched inconsistently at both the minor and big league levels between 2019-2021.
Fortunately, Puk quelled many of those concerns last season. The former number 6 overall pick posted a 3.12 ERA over 66 1⁄3 innings out of Oakland’s bullpen. Puk isn’t complacent, entering 2023 with an optimized breaking ball. Early returns from Puk with the Marlins have been nothing short of tremendous (1.13 ERA in 8.0 IP), and he’s matched Garrett’s 1.6 rWAR over his 99 career innings pitched. JJ Bleday, the fellow first-rounder who went west in the trade, won’t be missed if Puk sustains this performance.
AJ Puk, that will do pic.twitter.com/jE4ADGVll9— Sevento (@Sevento17) April 19, 2023
Circling back to Garrett, his Major League output thus far, while not wow-worthy, has been exactly what we could’ve imagined: safe.
In 143 innings over parts of 4 seasons, Garrett has pitched to the tune of a 4.03 ERA (103 ERA+), a 3.95 FIP, all while averaging exactly a strikeout an inning (9.0 SO/9). Sure, his lack of overpowering stuff has resulted in a high volume of hits allowed (9.8 H/9 and a corresponding 1.44 WHIP), but again, relative to his draft class, particularly those who came off the board in front of him, he’s been a lot better than most of us would assume.
Some of those taken after Garrett have gone on to become quality contributors, including Cal Quantrill (8th overall), Josh Lowe (13th), Gavin Lux (20th), Will Smith (32nd), Dylan Carlson (33rd), Dakota Hudson (34th) and Nick Lodolo (41st). However, the Marlins shouldn’t take their pick for granted. On a 2023 Miami roster that’s heavily dependent on outside acquisitions, Garrett is a homegrown, stabilizing force.
Braxton Garrett gets Gabriel Moreno for his fifth strikeout of the game. #Marlins pic.twitter.com/7SVcApvBgV— Kevin Barral (@kevin_barral) April 15, 2023